After taking a week off for the Oscars, Shameless returned tonight with the strongest episode of the second season so far. It was also written by Mike O'Malley. Yes, Kurt's dad on Glee and the former host of Nickelodeon GUTS! Okay, back on task...
"Parenthood" marked a return to the complicated life of Lip Gallagher. As always, he had the weight of the world on his shoulders as he considered several adoption outlets with Karen. With visits to the Catholics and the "seculars" not promising profit, Karen decided selling her future child ("it" as she said) to the highest bidder was the smart business decision. Lip worried about finding a good home. Karen simply asked, "Since when is rich not good?"
As Lip's frustration with Karen bubbled beneath the surface, he was confronted by Fiona regarding the issue of finishing his education. Lip wants to drop out of school to get a job and provide for Karen. Despite Karen's plans to sell the child, it's very clear that Lip wants to prove himself a worthy parent. Fiona, a parent by necessity herself, sees things differently. Her life has been firmly rooted in the belief that she dropped out of high school to ensure her siblings didn't have to. So when Lip challenged her to finish her senior year along with him, she decided a time-saving GED made more sense, a fair trade in her eyes. Lip, however, did not agree and his quiet brooding finally built to an outburst as he cursed out a teacher and threw a chair through a window. A quick expulsion followed.
Jeremy Allen White's Lip has quickly become the most entertaining Gallagher. He's got the James Dean thing nailed with his self-destructive tendencies (all while chain-smoking), but nearly every other character on the show is rooting for him to accept his own genius and live up to his potential. A touching conversation with Kev made it clear that Lip may be his only hope to put Kev's future children through school. A caring teacher who recognizes the path Lip is choosing offered to get him into a private school to finish his senior year. And of course Fiona, who has always believed in him, took the hard line: "Your job is school. School or leave." Never one for ultimatums, Lip ran up the stairs, grabbed a bag, and left the house.
Lip's quick exit was the most emotional scene so far this season and it was completely sold by the performances of the Gallagher clan. As Fiona realized what she had done, her shift from stern parent to concerned sister was excellent. And young Carl running after Lip, shouting at him to stay, pulled at the heart strings. I never thought of Lip as a father figure before then, but considering the consequences of the oldest, responsible Gallagher male leaving, it made sense that Carl would be crushed.
With Lip's drama dominating the plot this week, it was almost easy to miss the other huge developments. Frank walked in on Ian and Mickey Milkovich during a private moment in the Kash N' Grab freezer, and in true Frank form, he recognized an opportunity for blackmail. Mickey, recently released from juvie, decided he'd rather kill Frank and get locked away than have word spread that he's gay. Yet when the opportune moment arrived to shoot Frank, he backed off and decided to take out his anger on a cop instead. Was it for Ian? Mickey is definitely headed back to juvie now, but maybe he really does care for Ian more than he has been willing to admit.
And it wouldn't have been an episode of Shameless's second season without an assisted suicide plot. This time it was Sheila smothering Grammy Peg with a pillow at Grammy's request. There was a bit more humor in it than Frank's storyline with Dottie early in the season, purely due to Joan Cusack's theatrics in the effort. But I was surprised at the quick removal of Grammy from the equation after the show had set up the conflict of her money influencing Carl and Debbie.
The Gallagher Family Crib Sheet:
– Frank's emotional state was all over the map when it came to his mother's death. When he walked in on Sheila sitting on top of the pillow that ended Grammy's life, he celebrated with raised hands. But in the end credits he collapsed while hugging his ex-wife Monica as he told her the news.
– Why are the writers keeping Jody around? Perhaps it's to continue the mystery of who fathered Karen's baby. She reminded Lip again that it may not be his. But otherwise Jody's purpose was as caretaker to Grammy. With her exit, it feels like Jody's arc may have run its course.
– I have no idea how Steve would be allowed to step in as coach of Carl's elementary school football team, but it's a smart approach, on Steve's part, to finding more time with Fiona.
– Steve's Brazilian wife Estefania may have provided the best comic relief this week. We learned through subtitled phone calls that she is promising someone else that she's not sleeping with Steve. But it was her description of the Gallagher household and baby Liam that had me rolling: "It must be a halfway house. I'm holding a crack baby."
– It was a curious decision by Showtime to give the Shameless a week off for the Oscars despite airing a new episode the night of the Super Bowl. Perhaps their demographics showed a greater overlap with the award show crowd, but in the case of Shameless I would have guessed the opposite.
– Where will Lip live now?
– Will you miss Grammy?